Who will represent south and north waterfront? Profiles of 1st and 2nd Ward council candidates

Sixteen Hoboken residents are vying for six City Council seats in the upcoming May 8 election. The council consists of nine seats, six of which represent particular wards (or areas of town), and the other three at-large seats represent the whole town. While the six ward seats are up for election next month, the three at-large seats are up for election in 2009, the same time the mayor is up.

All councilpeople have four-year terms, during which they pass local ordinances and earn approximately $22,000 annually.

This article will be the first of three installments profiling the candidates.

Each of the candidates for the 1st and 2nd wards – representing the southeastern and northeastern areas of town – was asked three questions:

· Why are they deserving of the seat?

· What is the most important issue facing their ward? And

· What they would do about that issue?

The 1st Ward

The 1st Ward encompasses 37 blocks and has approximately 4,700 registered voters. Only 1,147 voted in the last ward election four years ago.

The 1st Ward includes much of the southern waterfront and shares a border with Jersey City, containing both the Hoboken Train Terminal and City Hall.

Development, transportation and economic issues are often at the forefront of debate in the 1st Ward.

Incumbent Theresa Castellano, who has retained her seat for the past 12 years, will be challenged for the second election in a row by Ron Rosenberg, a former Board of Education member and president of the Synagogue of Hoboken.

Theresa Castellano

Theresa Castellano, 58, a three-term incumbent, has spent 29 years involved with municipal government or volunteering on an assortment of city boards. She served on the Zoning Board from 1989 to 1995 and the Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission since 1978.

Born and raised in Hoboken, Castellano graduated from Hoboken High School to go on to Fairleigh Dickerson University. She earned a degree in dental hygiene from the College of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark. The mother of two is married to Hoboken Police Det. Robert Castellano and has for the last 38 years owned and operated City Discount a retail store at 207 Washington St.

Castellano, who is one of the most vocal critics of the mayor and the administration’s fiscal practices, plans to run with incumbent 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo, who is also her cousin. When asked what makes her more deserving of the council seat than her opponent, Castellano responded, “My record speaks for itself. When people refer to me, they describe me as ‘constituent based.’ I like to call myself a ‘public servant.’ I pride myself in responding to every request. If I don’t have an immediate resolution, I do the necessary research. I never leave anyone without an answer or direction.”

She added, “I consider myself so fortunate to have grown up, raised my family, have succeeded in business, and have a beautiful place to call home, and I owe it all to a place called Hoboken. Now, it’s my turn to give back to a community that has given me so much to be thankful for. I have the priceless experience, dedication and fortitude needed to deal with the day-to-day duties of governing this city. The formula for success is, always treat people the way you wish to be treated and never ever forget where you came from.”

In response to what she believes are the most important issues facing the 1st Ward, Castellano said, “Presently, the calls range from dog droppings, noise, and open space. [In regards to dog droppings,] early-morning and late-night stings are part of the answer. I am as we speak, advocating for such action. Signs and fines help, but you have to catch someone in the act. Stings have been very successful in the past.”

“[Regarding noise], neighborhood bars that have morphed into dance clubs with residents above, have been springing up. I want to amend legislation to keep the decibel level that is acceptable to residents. This would prohibit DJs from bringing in their own equipment.”

“[Regarding open space], the waterfront is a tremendous asset for the 1st Ward. Pier A park in itself is 5.5 acres of passive open space. Add to that the walkway, Sinatra Park Soccer Field, our little field in Stevens Park which abuts the 1st Ward. Granted, we could always use more open space, but in an urban city, we in the 1st Ward have been very fortunate. I have supported open space initiatives throughout the city.”

Ron Rosenberg

Ron Rosenberg, 54, will be running against the councilwoman for the 2nd Ward City Council seat. Rosenberg received a Master’s of Business Administration in Finance and Strategic Planning as well as a Bachelor’s in Economics and Management from New York University after moving to the United States from Israel in 1975. Having worked for several fortune 200 companies, Rosenberg decided to begin his own computer hardware company 12 years ago called “Ran to Go,” which distributes memory for computers and digital cameras.

Rosenberg, a father of one, moved to Hoboken in 1981 with his wife Zehava, who is a physician. During his years in Hoboken, Rosenberg has served as a member of the Board of Education from 2005 to 2006, was a founding member of the People for Open Government, for which he was also a treasurer, and is the former president of the Synagogue of Hoboken, where he served for seven years.

Rosenberg was born in Jerusalem and served in the Israeli Air Force from ’72 to ’75.

This will be the second time Rosenberg has run against Castellano, having finished second in last year’s runoff. He says he plans to run independently, but has the support of Mayor David Roberts and 3rd Ward candidate Frank Raia.

When asked what makes him more deserving of the council seat than his opponent, Rosenberg responded, “First Ward voters have a clear choice on May 8. My motives for serving are very different from my opponent’s. Though we agree that honesty and efficiency are key tenets of government, what we have done about it is very different. I played a principal role in enacting pay-to-play legislations in both the municipal and school district arenas. She claims to have ‘supported’ these efforts.”

He added, “I rallied against the corrupt and oppressive [former Mayor Anthony] Russo administration, whereas she was a loyal participant and supporter. I successfully managed a million-dollar synagogue expansion on budget. She voted for every fraudulent invoice Gerard Lisa submitted to the city. I want Russo to pay Hoboken the restitution ordered by a federal judge, while she has yet to speak on this issue. Hoboken will benefit when the interests of all its citizens are more important than the interests of a few. It’s time for change.”

In response to what he believes are the most important issues facing the 1st Ward, Rosenberg said, “One of my core values is that government exists to ensure the safety of its citizens. In the 1st Ward, this means pedestrian and vehicular safety. It seems that cars park dangerously close to corners and in pedestrian crossings because we don’t have enough affordable parking solutions. I will ensure that reasonable parking regulations be enforced, and a significant portion of enforcement-generated money be dedicated to create more affordable parking.” He added, “Government needs to be more accessible. I will endeavor to more fully allow citizens to interact with the city online, not in line. I will work to create fast-track procedures for our residents when working with, say, the construction and zoning offices.”

As for other concerns, he said, “I am concerned by our increasing debt and advocate a five-year budgeting cycle so that we can anticipate fiscal problems years before they become nightmares.”

“Development along Observer Highway is an important issue. Our current planning process is flawed because projects are considered individually. I will look at how Observer Highway projects, including NJ Transit, Neumann Leather, and the Southwest Redevelopment Zone, as a whole, cumulatively impact traffic, quality of life, and the environment, both locally and for all neighborhoods citywide.”

The 2nd Ward

The 2nd Ward, which contains the city’s north waterfront, has seen a surge in population due to the recent creation of massive residential complexes consisting of over 700 and 800 units. The ward, which shares a border with Weehawken, consists of 24 blocks and has approximately 4,500 registered voters, of which only 1,311 voted in the last ward election four years ago.

The council seat for the 2nd Ward has been left vacant by City Council President Richard Del Boccio, who after 17 years in office announced at the end of last year that he will not be running in the upcoming election.

Elizabeth Mason

Elizabeth Mason, 46, owns a management consulting firm on the city’s west side and is the founder and president of the non-profit New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (FOG), a local organization dedicated to opening the doors to government in Hoboken and Hudson County. She is presently leading efforts to revise the Open Public Meetings Act and overseeing a recently released report on the New Jersey Government Records Council.

Mason was born and raised in Richmond, Va., having moved to Hoboken in 1984 shortly after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications.

Mason, a mother of two, lives with her husband Richard who is a restructuring and financing attorney.

Mason was a member of the Hoboken Planning Board from 2001 to 2003, and was formerly a chairperson for the Hoboken Master Plan subcommittee. Mason also served on the Board of Directors of the Quality of Life Coalition and the Hoboken Historical Museum.

This will be the second time Mason is running, having finished second to Del Boccio in a 2003 runoff. She is running as an independent.

When asked what makes her more deserving of the council seat than her opponent, Mason responded, “My experience as a senior executive and consultant to over 70 organizations, where I was responsible for multi-million dollar budgets, and my extensive experience as a community advocate, will bring a fresh perspective to government.

“I work to encourage people to participate in solving problems they care about. I will reach out to our community in ways that go beyond simply attending council meetings by holding neighborhood forums on various issues where residents can voice their concerns and have input on the city’s decision-making.

“As an independent candidate who does not need the salary and is beholden to no one, I have the ability to do what is right for our residents, and am willing to defend them against City Hall intimidation and corruption. I love the 2nd Ward, but know it can be better. In the City Council, I will be a fighter for all of us.”

In response to what she believes are the most important issues facing the 2nd Ward, Mason said, “The 2nd Ward is a microcosm of the city and has many of the same problems, overdevelopment, public safety and bad traffic conditions, and the lack of open space and parking. As chair of Hoboken’s Master Plan Sub-Committee, I worked to design a comprehensive program for land use by gathering community input to address these issues. Through an open search process, we brought in the best professionals in their fields. Our goal was to make sure that developers put our community before their profits.”

She added, “Despite this, the plan has been stalled for more than four years with many opportunities lost. Only as councilwoman will I have the power to make sure our goal is met.

“To solve these problems I will start by seeking to review and approve zoning ordinances and municipal codes to ensure that parks, parking, affordable housing and economic initiatives promised to our residents are actually provided and politicians are held accountable.

“Additionally, I will continue to work to open our city’s books and processes to our residents. Only by making the workings of City Hall accessible to people can we effectively end corruption, fraud and waste. I will make sure government works for all of us.”

Richard Tremitiedi

Richard Tremitiedi, 68, Hoboken’s former fire chief, was born in Jersey City and raised in Hoboken, having been brought to the mile-square city as an infant.

Tremitiedi graduated with honors from Demarest High School in 1956. He entered the Hoboken Fire Department in 1960 and joined the United States Army Reserve in 1961. He served through 1965, receiving an honorable discharge at the rank of corporal.

In 1984, he graduated from Essex County College with a degree in Fire and Safety Science and was selected as the class valedictorian.

As chief, he implemented changes in the department that resulted in the city receiving a Class 1 protection rating, making it the only Fire Department in the State of New Jersey to attain such a status.

In addition to being chief, Tremitiedi also served as a member of the Zoning Board in Weehawken and has coached little leaguers in Hoboken as well as being the vice-president for the South Constitution Condominium Association and an esquire at the Hoboken Elks Lodge.

Tremitiedi is married to Mary Lisa Tremitiedi, the administrative assistant to the superintendent of schools. He has two adopted children and one biological daughter from a previous marriage.

Currently, Richard is the president of Fire Smart Inc., a company that prepares firefighters for their civil service officer examinations.

When asked what makes him more deserving of the council seat than his opponent, Tremitiedi responded, “My breadth of experience in local government and public service has uniquely fortified me with the knowledge and ability to serve on the Hoboken City Council.

“During my military career, I learned how good leadership and discipline gets the job done.

“My multifaceted fire duties involved saving people’s lives with direct fire fighting actions, by fire prevention and safety education, code enforcement and writing the smoke detector ordinance of the city of Hoboken.

As fire chief, I had to work with a barebones budget and operated in a cost effective manner.

My service on a Zoning Board of Adjustment, combined with my re-election to a fourth term as vice president of our 171 unit condo association, has gained me a thorough understanding of the needs of our newer residents. Accordingly, I know how to cope with the problems of today and the future.”

In response to what he believes are the most important issues facing the 2nd Ward, Tremitiedi said, “Three of the major issues facing 2nd Ward residents are taxes, parking, and open/recreation space. The way to reduce taxes is to trim expenditures or increase revenues. I have a plan to review the budget and provide for sound fiscal management with the objective of lowering taxes by prudently reducing expenses. Specifically, by making the sale of the Observer Highway municipal garage more attractive, we can infuse as much as eight million dollars immediately in additional revenue.

“Hoboken continues to have parking problems. I have what it takes to supply different, unique and innovative thinking to resolve this issue. We have to have a dialogue with the residents, developers, planners, City Council, and other stakeholders on how to provide for adequate and affordable parking.

“Regarding open space, the proposed 16th and Willow Avenue recreation project is a step in the right direction; however, it is limited in scope. I will commission research regarding the adjacent land that is owned by the City of Hoboken and private developers to pursue expanding this project to provide for more baseball, tennis, soccer and water activities.”

He added, “Currently, I have excluded affordable housing as an issue [in the 2nd Ward] because Applied Housing continues to supply sufficient units.”

Michael Mullins can be reached at mmullins@hudsonreporter.com

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